Bryant has appeared in only six games this season, but his sick, twisted and vindictive competitive spirit remains intact.
Jeff G.: You just signed a two-year deal…talk about what that means to you and what the fans can expect the last two years from Kobe.
Kobe: This year, we all know it’s been a real tough year for us right? So what I’d like everybody to do is to really just sit back and just absorb this year. Take it all in. Sit back and watch and listen and hear all the hate that’s being thrown at us and remember every person that’s kicking you when you’re down because next year it ain’t gunna be this way.
Appreciate it now. Let it sit in now, because revenge is sweet and it’s quick.
Does that read like a player demoralized by his current situation?
Now on the wrong side of 35 and having signed a two-year extension worth close to $50 million, it would be so easy for Bryant to downplay the significance of his return—whenever it comes.
Most 35-year-olds aren't playing at a superstar level, and after being addled by injuries since last spring, Bryant's confidence could naturally be waning. But he isn't most players.
I bumped into Kobe as he headed to his press conference. "You're not announcing your retirement are you." His response: "(Bleep) that."— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) February 17, 2014
Promising things like revenge and continued greatness is par for the course. This isn't commentary devoid of meaning and conviction. He actually believes in what he's saying, and more importantly, he is confident in himself.
Of course he does. He's Kobe, self-assured and confident. That's never going to change. And it's something to admire.
At the same time, it's also something to question.
Bryant's basketball mortality has been tested again and again over the last year or so, and it's difficult to gauge just how much he has left.
To be sure, he's mentally strong. That's not up for debate. But will his body ever catch up to his heart again? That's a question not even Bryant himself can answer right now.
Will Kobe Bryant be able to regain previous form next season?
Soon enough, though, he'll know. We will all know. Be it this season or next season, he's going to return. When he does, his limits will again be pushed, prodded and tested beyond comprehension.
Basketball careers have expiration dates and Bryant's is fast approaching. Or it may have already come to pass.
Or maybe, just maybe, both his body and mind have enough left to wage one last quick, sweet and revenge-driven hurrah.